The last news to come out of the tobacco industry had to do with the new strict smoking laws that South African lawmakers have proposed to further regulate the industry.
It’s pretty standard stuff – most countries are cracking down on where and when you can light up.
Naturally, the industry is fighting back. Tobacco is big money.
There’s more to the industry, though, which we’ll get into in a second.
For now, let’s go to TimesLIVE for what happened to millionaire tobacco boss Simon Rudland as he tried to enter the Orchards offices of the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) in Joburg on Wednesday.
Simon Rudland, was shot in a suspected assassination attempt and is doing “okay” in hospital, according to the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita).
“He’s okay. He is a strong man, but obviously no one expected something like this to happen. As long as he is alive, we are grateful for that,” said Fita chairperson Sinenhlanhla Mnguni.
Rudland was shot in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
His lawyer was in the car with him and also sustained injuries.
CCTV cameras captured the attempt on Rudland’s life:
Nine rounds were fired into the car. Rudland was shot in the neck, and his lawyer was seriously wounded and is in intensive care.
According to the Daily Maverick, the assassination isn’t that surprising.
The desperate attempt to eliminate a key executive of Gold Leaf, one of several smaller independent competitors to the tobacco “big boys”, comes as no surprise considering the damage the established tobacco industry has exacted in South Africa over decades.
From funding and lobbying political parties and individual politicians to spying on competitors and committed law enforcement officials, to evading tax (the country lost R3-billion in 2017/18 alone) to downright thuggery, the tobacco industry has contaminated almost all levels of society, to say nothing of the lungs of those addicted to their products.
This also isn’t the first time that a hit has been put out on a tobacco boss, as outlined in former SARS group executive Johann van Loggerenberg in his exposé of the shady politics that govern the tobacco industry, Tobacco Wars — Inside the spy games and dirty tricks of southern Africa’s cigarette trade.
Van Loggerenberg writes that in 2019 “one tobacco grouping had allegedly used ‘gang networks’ in Reiger Park to carry out a (failed) assassination of tobacco whistleblower Luis Pestana, in an incident where his bodyguard, Gerard Strydom, was shot and wounded.”
In January 2019, a report compiled by a Western Cape police intelligence officer reported that a hit had been ordered on an employee of Carnilinx, controversial strongman and confessed killer Mikey Schultz.
Let us not forget that it was in the fecund 2010 embrace between established tobacco “big boys”, in collusion with corrupt government officials who formed part of the Illicit Tobacco Task Team which comprised the DPCI, the State Security Agency (SSA), SAPS Crime Intelligence Division and the NPA (but not SARS), as well as the Tobacco Institute of South Africa, that the monster that is the SARS “rogue unit” narrative was birthed.
You can read more about the dodgy history of the tobacco industry here.
For the most part, Fita had managed to untie itself from a lot of the shady dealings of times past, and has in many ways become a true representative of the independent tobacco players, such as Rudland and Gold Leaf.
The assassination attempt on one of their big bosses, however, highlights the ongoing high stakes in the tobacco industry.
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